I have always tried to avoid getting angry.
Aside from all the hell it raises with my delicate constitution, it never accomplishes anything. In fact, it always makes everything worse.
Get mad while trying to remove a rusted bolt and sure enough you'll snap it off.
Get mad at your dog for confusing your indoor bathroom with his outdoor one, and the more miserable you'll both be.
Get mad at the stupidity, cupidity and corruption of our politicians and the corporate swine they're in cahoots with, and your ulcer'll grow at the same rate as their Swiss bank accounts.
But as well as I understand this, last week I lost my cool Big Time.
A sticker situation
Two weeks ago, after I'd left my last class and headed toward the parking lot, I saw something yellow on the window of my car. When I got to the car, I saw it was a parking ticket.
A parking ticket? Why'd I get a parking ticket? I was in the appropriate lot and I have a parking permit on my rearview mirror, where it's supposed to be.
I examined the ticket. Checked off was the box that said "No parking sticker."
It was clearly a mistake, but I did not get mad about it. Some people would, I realize, just because they hate cops. Me, I don't hate cops, if for no other reason than I know they do the job none of the rest of us either can do or would do. So that didn't rankle me at all.
Other people'd get mad because obviously a mistake was made and they were on its receiving end. But not me. Hey, mistakes are just part of being human, right? And even if the mistake was to my disadvantage, it wasn't much of one. First, it's just a parking ticket. Second, traditionally - due to our exalted status and the basic inequity of life - teachers always talk their way out of paying the finesif they even bother to respond. Since I'm one of the non-responders, I tossed the ticket on the back seat and cruised out of the parking lot, and never gave it another thought.
Or at least I didn't give it another thought till the next week, when I found an official-and-important-looking envelope in my faculty mailbox. Immediately, my curiosity was piqued. See, while I imagine lots of people at school get official-and-important-looking envelopes, I'm not one of them, and for good reason: I'm not important. And for all the status I've lost, I've also lost a whole lot of hassles.
Anyhow, I opened the envelope, checked the contents, and could not believe my eyes. Inside was a very official bill for my parking ticket to the tune of 20 simoleons, no less. Now, while not exactly mad, I was more than a wee bit annoyed. For one thing, the paper trail was there - I was clearly on the school shylocks' radar. And second, there was no need for this, which is what annoyed me the most.
Think about it: There's a good reason to make vehicles at school have parking stickers, namely to identify who does and does not belong there. Primarily, it's a security measure, and one I fully agree with. Beyond security, stickers increase the school's ability to be helpful. If, for example, someone leaves their lights on and he's got a sticker, campus authorities can find him before his battery dies.
And that's why this latest episode annoyed me: I got ticketed for not having a sticker, which I actually had. So I assume Campus Safety found out it was my car by having access to DMV plate numbers. But let's get real: I've been driving the same jalopy for 10 years. They probably could've identified me faster as the car's owner by asking any random passer-by whose junker it was.
So that's what got me mad, right?
Nope, what got me mad was the letter's addressee. It was the name on the very official-and-important-looking envelope - Ms. Robert D. Seidenstein.
Yep, that's right - Ms. Robert D. Seidenstein!
Being addressed by a female honorific must've really raised my hackles, right?
Sorry. Wrong again.
It's no big deal to me, being addressed as Ms. What the hey, I'm a real 21st century guy - I'm seriously in touch with my feminine side. Maybe I don't go to biker bars wearing Capri pants and carrying a murse, but I'll sooner be mistaken for an NFL fullback than any kind of male chauvinist - pig, piglet, or anything else.
So if none of those things got me mad, what did?
This: The letter was sent to Robert D. Seidenstein. And who's that? I ask. I haven't ever gone by the name "Robert." And the only person to call me that was my eighth grade English teacher, who never addressed students by a nicknames or pet names, lest they labor under the illusion she had a soft spot in her heart for her charges, or that she even had a heart in the first place.
Everyone I know, and everyone I've ever known, has called me Bob, nothing but Bob, so help me Bob. But the place where I've worked for the past 38 years still doesn't know this?
Plus one more thing: My middle initial is D. But it's D, with no period, since I have no middle name, only the initial, the same as the classic "Harry S for Nothing Truman."
Oh, the outrage!
I fumed over this for the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening, and was still doing a slow burn at night, when the phone rang. It was my brother, and of course I immediately vented my spleen on him.
"Hey hold on, big guy," he said. "This is nothing to get steamed about."
"It's not?" I said. "And just how do you figure that, Dr. Know-it-all?'
"Simple," he said. "You said it was addressed to Ms. Robert D. Seidenstein, right?"
"Well, since you're not of the feminine persuasion and you don't put a period after your middle initial, this is all a case of mistaken identity."
"Obviously," he said, in that superior, older-brother voice of his. "And now the least you can do is have some sympathy."
"Sympathy?" I said. "For who?"
"For that poor gal, Ms. Robert D. Seidenstein," he said. "Not only is she stuck with a guy's name, but she forgot to get a parking sticker for her car."